While we have professionalized the rituals of dying, from our care in the final days of life to the processes of interment with funeral home directors, it is fair to say that a trend in our society is that Americans are taking back control of the process. People seem to be craving a more humane mourning and burial process. Further fueling the desire to do it our own way, are the concerns about the cost, environmental impacts and sameness of the process. We are bringing death public again and celebrating the lives of those who have died in distinctly individualized ways. In the process, we are inventing new and adapting old traditions, burial places and memorials. It’s a fascinating development best characterized by the extraordinary adoption of cremation as the new way to handle the body, even giving way to a new term ‘cremains’. There is, perhaps, no better describer of this change, David Sloane, a trained historian at the University of Southern California and a descendant of multiple generations of cemetery managers. His book ‘Is the Cemetery Dead’ explains the changes in an industry and a reality that affect us all.
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